ABOVE: The boardwalk at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is family friendly and provides an easy way to get close to nature. BELOW LEFT: This red-shouldered hawk looks for a late afternoon meal. 2017 Photos by Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star
By Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley
At the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the staff and volunteers are preparing for the 19th annual Everglades Day on Feb. 10.
“We want to show people the value of the Everglades so they want to preserve it,” said Cathy Patterson, a volunteer at the refuge — the only remaining remnant of the northern Everglades in Palm Beach County.
Since 2000, the event in western Boynton Beach has attracted almost 60,000 visitors in total. Last year, over 4,500 people attended.
“The day is a way for families to get outside and do something together that’s fun and educational,” said Patterson, vice president of the Friends of Loxahatchee.
With so many attending, there’s much to be done. “The whole day is frantic. You are on your feet trying to be sure everything runs smoothly and people have a good time,” said resident volunteer Roger Brooks.
The day begins as you park your car off-site and take a bus into the refuge, where on this day admission is free.
While you make the short trip to the refuge, a volunteer will pass out information about the day’s events and a schedule of activities. (You can recognize the volunteers by their white T-shirts with blue geese on the front and “volunteer” displayed on the back.)
The bus drops you at the visitors center, where there will be more volunteers to direct and help you sign up for canoe paddling in the Everglades and golf-cart tours of the Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment.
That’s an 80-acre working model of the iconic Everglades ecosystem. This living laboratory gives researchers a chance to study restoration techniques on a controlled scale. “The research helps us to understand how to correct some of the damage done by man,” Brooks said.
Exhibitors from groups such as Lion Country Safari, the Sierra Club and Everglades National Park will set up information booths. There also will be walking tours along the Marsh Trail and speakers at what’s called the C-6 pavilion as well as at a smaller shelter at the Marsh Trail.
Speakers are scheduled to include Lance Warley, a wildlife photographer; Richard Crossley, author of The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl; and Burmese python hunter Edward Mercer. There also will be encounters with native snakes and raptors.
If you get hungry and just want to relax for a while, there will be more than a half-dozen food trucks serving everything from ice cream and tacos to burgers and vegan/vegetarian options.
The kids will enjoy the “animal Olympics.” Along a marked path, there will be pictures of animals that the children are urged to imitate as they pass. Just imagine your little one hopping like a marsh rabbit.
Don’t miss a walk along the boardwalk through a cypress swamp, where there’s even a resident bobcat who has left his markings on a tree. You can also enjoy the casting and knot-tying demonstrations.
“When your visit is over and you return by bus to your car, we hope you will have had a fantastic time out here in the Everglades,” said Brooks.
You can reach Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If you want an easy way to help save the Everglades, stop releasing Mylar balloons filled with helium. They often travel a good distance and end up in the Everglades.
“And they can cause the death of fish, alligators, reptiles and birds. They are a health risk to the wildlife out here.”
— resident volunteer Roger Brooks
If You Go
Where: Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach
When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 10
Parking: Free off-site at Solid Waste Authority, 13400 S. State Road 7, Delray Beach. It is a short shuttle bus ride to the park entrance.
Accessibility: Park on-site with a handicap placard. ADA-compliant vans will be available for transportation within the refuge.
Volunteers: Volunteers are still needed. To participate, you must attend a pre-event orientation meeting at the Visitor Center. Call 732 3684 ext.3684 or email Ana Castillo-Ruiz@fws.gov.
Info: 734-8303 or www.fws.gov/refuge/arm_loxahatchee